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Utah restaurant owners find ways to stay in business and prepare for dine-in options to return

Posted at 5:57 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 19:57:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert announced Tuesday that he will be lowering Utah's COVID-19 risk level from "red" to "orange," effective May 1. The change will allow some businesses to begin re-opening with strict guidelines in place.

The new guidelines will allow restaurants to begin can dine-in services once again. There will be restrictions and guidelines, including tables being placed six feet apart, employees must wear masks and adhere to strict cleaning guidelines.

The Salt Lake County Health Department tweeted Tuesday afternoon that they expect to follow Gov. Herbert’s plan in early May.

“We will have guidance for industries in coming days so businesses have time to implement requirements necessary to open,” the tweet read in part.

With the new guidelines, it’s unlikely restaurant owners will make money, something Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association Executive Director Michele Corigliano said most haven’t been able to do during curbside and pick-up options.

“They got hit first, they got hit hardest, they are getting really minimum help so far. I will tell you, I am so inspired by these owners,” she said.

No one is being left behind, and the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association is doing everything they can to help restaurant owners and advocate on their behalf, Corigliano said.

It hasn’t been easy, Eva’s Bakery owner Charlie Perry said. Perry decided to close his popular downtown restaurant and bakery for a while they made a plan of action. The restaurant re-opened Monday for to-go food options.

“We will all get there eventually, we just need to take these little baby steps and slowly make our way to normalcy, or whatever that looks like,” he said.

Receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan allowed for all back-of-house and some front-of-house staff to be brought back to work, Perry said. Abigail Ruiz, a barista and server at Eva’s Bakery, is one of those people.

“I have been waiting so long to come back. I am just thankful to be able to work,” she said.

Now, Perry and his staff look at the empty dining room floor wondering what it will look like with the new dine-in restrictions.

“We will normally have about 15 tables sat, with a waitlist of easy 30-45 minutes on the weekends, and then we will have a line out the door serving pastries to go,” manager Quest Webster said.

When ordering from a local restaurant, Webster encourages people to order directly through the restaurant instead of through the popular delivery apps.

“While we do want to have those options available for customers, we are trying to encourage our customers to order online through our website because that’s the way our servers can get tipped directly,” she said.

As restaurants prepare to serve more customers again, they will taking every precaution possible and are making data driven decisions, Corigliano said.

“It is going to be safe and the restaurants are going to make sure that everything is going to be in place to keep the public safe,” she said.

For the latest COVID-19 updates in Utah, click here.